The Curse of Positivity
I lost a friend last year. She took her life. We were classmates.
Class 5 and 6.
The 'Fantastic Four' - We called ourselves. Enid Blyton influenced us, of course! We were four of us (need you even ask - just girls!). We had just got to that age of finding ourselves going red in the face when speaking or looking at the opposite sex!
Eating lunch together, playing hopscotch and eating sip-ups (those tubes of frozen colored water. Of course, I consider them highly unhygienic now but will still surely gobble them up if I ever saw them again). I have some beautiful memories of that time.
I have moved schools almost every two-year (the Army life) and so I left this school after my Class 6. We did not keep in touch.
Decades roll by and the world changed. We grew up. Social media brought us all back but we weren't little girls anymore and still were in different parts of the world.
I think as we step into each new moment, maintaining the intensity of who we were and who we left behind becomes increasingly difficult. This is not to say it is a bad thing. After all, we all do want to move on. But it is important to acknowledge with gratitude that it is what you were and who you were with that impacts this moving on and I did.
I was happy to know that all of them seemed to be doing OK, virtually at least. Until I heard from a common friend that one the 'Fantastic Four' had lost her life to suicide.I couldn't believe what I was hearing. We were little girls not so long ago, with dreams and this beautiful curious excitement about life. How did this happen? Sadly, I knew very little about how her life had been after class 6.Social media leaves traces of you and who you are, they say. I looked online to see what I had missed and could I have done something?
All I saw were a handful of happy pictures of hers and a whole lot of positive and inspirational messages and quotes there. Nothing seemed alarming.
After all, these positive videos and messages flood our inboxes every half hour, be it WhatsApp, mail or social media. I have personally shared a few because I found those inspiring.
However, I have always wondered, could there be more behind sharing these messages?Could some of us be updating our statuses with the hope that someone reaches out to us? Could these be hints, sometimes subtle other times obvious ways of sending that someone or anyone a message or a cry for help?
I know it takes a lot of work to ground ourselves in positivity and hopefulness because our brain has clever ways of playing tricks on us to keep us stuck with the negativity bias. This is the reason why a small frown of disapproval from someone even after doing great work otherwise pulls us down to believe how much of a loser we are.
According to the work of John Gottman and Robert Levenson, who closely studied the effects of negativity with couples, the suggested ratio is 5:1, meaning that for every negative encounter, there should be a minimum of five positive ones to counterbalance the effects of the first.So paying attention to the positives is good. We practice being grateful, notice and mindfully experience positive encounters in life so we retrain our brain to account for the positives.
However, I am also left wondering, in constantly holding on to this positivity are we beginning to use it as another coping strategy? Are we too afraid to face the negative encounters life offers? Are we too embarrassed to accept or sometimes even acknowledge that life isn't going as planned? Are we sometimes covering our tired sighs under the colorful and inviting world of positivity instead of asking for help? Till one day it just implodes and someone somewhere loses another friend/ loved one. Because every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide.
Or better still what if instead of that forward, we actually type out a "Hello, how are you?". I wish I had! Take 40 seconds and say that 'Hello'! #40seconds
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